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UNCW Online Program Receives National Recognition

Nursing students work in the simulation lab in McNeill Hall on the campus of UNCW.
Nursing students work in the simulation lab in McNeill Hall on the campus of UNCW.
Photo: Michael Spencer/UNCW

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s online Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Educator (MSN NE) program has received national recognition with Quality Matters Online Program Design Certification.

The MSN NE program is the first UNC Wilmington program and the first nursing program in the UNC System to receive this prestigious certification. It is one of only three QM-certified programs in the UNC System.

“This certification is a testament to the excellent work done by the MSN NE faculty, especially the course coordinators, who work hard to ensure that all our students receive an exceptional education,” said Dr. Jack C. Watson, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, which includes the School of Nursing.

Quality Matters (QM) is an internationally recognized non-profit organization specializing in quality assurance in online and hybrid course design. It is a faculty-centered, peer-reviewed process that helps examine the design of online courses through a comprehensive evaluation process, helping to ensure that students can navigate the courses more easily and with more transparency.

QM Online Program Design Certification recognizes programs designed around measurable learning objectives or competencies. This designation is the culmination of a rigorous five-year collaboration between UNCW’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning (DEeL) and the MSN NE program.

Dr. April Matthias, interim associate director for academic programs in the School of Nursing, served as the MSN NE program coordinator during this process.

“Intentional development for the course coordinator faculty instilled confidence and competence, as well as inspired creativity and innovation in course design,” Matthias said. “This certification journey also facilitated collaboration between the course coordinator faculty and DEeL instructional designers. The course coordinator faculty carried the responsibility to redesign the courses to meet QM criteria, yet DEeL was amazing and provided them with needed resources and support. This collaboration created synergy and helped keep the momentum throughout our QM journey."

The MSN NE program wanted to achieve QM Online Program Design Certification for several reasons.

  • First, to ensure consistent learner experiences across the program, across multiple sections of each course and throughout the 13 courses in the program.
  • Considering the program prepares future nurse educators, MSN NE faculty felt it was important to role model quality course design and course facilitation. Curriculum needed to be clearly aligned with intentional learning activities and assessments, particularly because courses are accelerated and there is little time to waste.  
  • Quality course design ensures MSN NE students can focus on the content within their accelerated courses rather than spending time and energy on issues associated with accessibility, technology and navigation. 
  • Lastly, the journey to certification would enhance faculty expertise related to online course design and online course facilitation. Within the School of Nursing, only one of the seven nursing program options is offered face-to-face. The majority of nursing faculty teach online.